In the Apology, Socrates recounts how he disobeyed the unjust order of the Thirty Tyrants to arrest a fellow citizen; he also claims that he will never stop philosophizing, regardless of what the legally constituted political authority commands. Yet, in the Crito, Socrates provides numerous arguments for obeying the decision of the legally constituted political authority, even though the decision (to put Socrates to death) was unjust. Critically assess whether Socrates’s view about political obligation in the two texts is consistent. In both Crito & Apology Plato presents Socrates’ argues clearly and succinctly.
The claims and arguments constructed in the Crito ultimately lead to the conclusion that ‘a failure to persuade ones government, one must diligently obey the orders of the state. Socrates posits that ‘when one has come to a just agreement with another, one should fulfill it’. As a citizen of Athens who as enjoyed the ‘liberties and privilege’ of being Athenian, Soctates has entered into an agreement of obedience in exchange for ‘privilege’. Crito underlines the process of rebuttal, dialogue and reason however the obedience to the state is paramount; Socrates accepts and respects this as just.
In Apology, Socrates threatens to disobey a court order to discontinue his philosophizing. Socrates makes a promise disobey an order by the Athenian jury, legally or illegally, if it prevents him from philosophizing. The former position emphasizes and underlines obedience; the latter position expresses direct disobedience. Socrates’ positions in Crito and Apology are irreconcilable, contradictory and mutually exclusive. The position taken in Crito is of complete obedience to the state, is arrived at through three sections of dialogue that offer specific concurrent arguments.
In the first section Socrates dismisses a series of arguments put forward by Crito. The arguments concern financial and the logistical problems of escape however Socrates is not concerned with these questions. Finally Crito puts forward moral arguments that Socrates will be doing a disservice to his supporters and unjustly joining the efforts of his enemies by validating an unjust death. This path, according to Crito, is dishonorable, easy and cowardly due to his refusal to fight injustice. Crito argues the final point that Socrates is a patriarch to his students and friends thus he is burdened with the obligation to care-for and educate his children; his death would result in orphaning them all. Socrates immediately delves into his moral deontology explaining that he does not worry oneself about the opinion of the majority or the fate of his children. Socrates soul and paramount concerns is with acting justly. The most important Socrates is living the just life. By escaping, Socrates would commit an unjust act of defiance undermining his moral position. So adamant is he about this he is willing to die.
In Apology, Socrates’ refuses to obey a government order to not to philosophize: “If you said to me in this regard, ’Socrates, we do not believe Anytus now; we acquit you, but only on the condition that you spend no more time on this investigation and do not practice philosophy, and if you are caught doing so you will die’; if, as I say, you were to acquit me on those terms, I would say to you: “Men of Athens, I am grateful and I am your friend, but I will obey the god rather than you, and as long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practice philosophy” The above passage underlines Socrates’ position to disobey the government, which while in jail he so adamantly supported.
In this instance, Socrates places his freedom philosophize above the direct orders of the sate. His defense during the Apology, emphasizes that he is a good person, he speaks clearly, honestly, relies on reason and does not corrupt. The arguments he puts forward in his defense attempt to persuade the judges that he is a good person and not a danger while philosophizing. Ultimately his honesty leads him to admit that his highest allegiance is to philosophic exploration. It can be argued that Socrates, in both texts is being consistent with a higher law. This higher law can be the divine laws of reason. Socrates may be consistent in his approach to just and unjust law. A paradox may exist between the Athenian Law and the laws of reason.
What Socrates could have been suggesting is that it would have been impossible for him not to philosophize and use his reason. In this way, to not be politically disobedient, he would have to change the very nature of his being. In essence, Socrates was not ‘disobeying’; rather he was incapable of ‘obeying’. An example would be if the Athenian State asked him to pass through the eye of a threading needle. In this instance, the task is impossible and by default Socrates would defy the state – not be cause won’t but because he can’t. It is important to note that in all instances leading up to the trial, that Socrates faced justice vs. unjust choices.
The final ultimatum was an impossible instruction: actively terminate your ability to dialogue and reason. To obey the state, Socrates drank the hemlock. This was the only way to consistently obey the state and be just. The position taken in the Crito and Apology are irreconcilable because they are two premises that offer no logical conclusion. If one uses Socrates’ initial premise (pi), ‘that he will obey and uphold the law’, this offers no exception. One can logically assume any addition situation or secondary premise (pii) will lead to the conclusion (c) that Socrates will uphold the will of the State. The premise from Crito, asserts that Socrates will obey the State.
The premise in Apology, suggest that Socrates will disobey the state. The conclusion is that Socrates disobeys the state; this is illogical. Because the two texts are separate and contextualized differently, it is not clear as to whether Socrates had a drastic shift in his moral deontology. What is clear is that in the first instance, he adamantly refused to obey an unjust law, out of commitment to philosophic-exploration. In the second, he passionately obeys an unjust law out of duty to the State. What is clear through his reasoning and argumentation is that that Socrates presents a list of moral priorities that are sequenced horizontally and cannot exist in parallel.
Plainly, one has completely committed to the State or Philosophy. The Apology, ultimately reveals Socrates’ true moral deontology. Obedience to the State is second in importance only to Philosophizing. Jonathan – some great ideas here. Your writing/ grammar needs quite a bit of work (possibly just editing issues, I don’t know). See my notes re: some things to consider in regards to this thesis. Some of your arguments are very sophisticated and extremely interesting. Keep that up for the next paper, clean up your writing, and you should do great. Good introduction of a counter argument – make sure to have a solid one like that in the next assignment as well.